p. 297 - 338.
The early ecclesiastical history of the town of Warwick is involved in much obscurity, and no reliable evidence exists of the formation of any independent church for about three-fourths of a century after the first settlement in 1642. That a respectable portion of the first settlers were Christian people there is no doubt. In 1639, John Greene, Richard Waterman, Francis Weston, Ezekiel Holliman, Wm. Arnold and Stukely Westcott, then residing in Providence, united with six others in church relations, and 'agreed to support in faith and practice the principles of Christ's doctrine'. These six men, whose names are above-mentioned, were among the earliest settlers of this town, three of them being among the original purchasers of the land. Before uniting in church relations at Providence, they had become 'convinced of the truth of believers' baptism' by immersion, but had not had the privilege of practicing according to their faith. There was no minister of like sentiments, who had been immersed, to administer the ordinance of baptism, and to meet the difficulty they selected Ezekiel Holliman, a 'pious and gifted man', to baptize Roger Williams, which was accordingly done, when Mr. Williams in turn, baptized Mr. Holliman and the others. This was the origin of the First Baptist Church of Providence. Three years later, one-half of the constituent members of that church settled within the limits of this town. There were others besides them who were professed Christians.*
*On March 13, 1639, at the General Court in Boston, 'John Smith, for disturbing the public peace, by combining with others to hinder the orderly gathering of a church at Weymouth, and to set up another there, contrary to the orders here established, and the constant practice of all our churches, and for undue procuring the hands of many to a blank for that purpose, is fined L20, and committed during the pleasure of the Court or the Council.'
-- Mass. Col. Rec. I, 252.
The name, John Smith, is a little confusing. Whether it was the same person of that name who became an early resident of this town, and was President of the Rhode Island Colony in 1649, I am not able to decide. After the above experience from the Massachusetts Court, he would have been likely to seek more hospitable regions. It is known that some of the Weymouth faction came to Rhode Island.
Though it does not appear that there was an organized church in the town for a considerable period, there are evidences that Holliman, Waterman and their associates who united in the formation of the church at Providence, still retained their membership in that body, visiting it as often as they found it convenient, but holding meetings of worship in their own town as a branch of the mother church. We have found no positive evidence of this, however. Rev. John Callender, then pastor of the First Baptist Church at Newport, in his famous centennial discourse, published in 1738, alluding to the First Church of Providence, says: 'This church shot out into divers (sic) branches, as the members increased, and the distance of their habitation made it inconvenient for them to attend the public worship in town. Several meetings were fixed at different places, and about the time the large township of Providence became divided into four towns**, these chapels of ease began to be considered as distinct churches, though all are yet in a union of counsels and interests.'*** On a subsequent page, he says: 'There are in the nine towns on the main land, eight churches of the people, called Baptists, one in every town except East Greenwich, where there is, however, a Meeting House, in which there is a meeting once a month.'**** In a note he adds the names of Manasseh Martyn and Francis Bates as the elders of the Warwick Church. Elder Martyn was ordained to the ministry in 1725, though the earliest records of this church extant bear the date of 1741.*****
**This was in January, 1730-1. -- Arnold, Vol II, 102.
***Branch churches, with certain delegated powers from the mother church, among which were the privileges of celebrating the communion and admitting members, have been common in Six Principle churches from time immemorial. The membership of such 'Branches' was recorded with that of the parent church. See accounts of the Crompton Church and the Bethel of that order on subsequent pages.
**** In 1730, says Backus, 'there were thirteen Baptist churches, most of them small, who held annual associations to promote discipline and communion among them upon the six principles in Hebrews VI.' -- Backus Hist. of the Baptists.
*****Knight's History, p. 273.
Allowing that the church here existed as a branch of the First Church at Providence up to the time of the division of the town of Providence, or about that time, the interval, during which we have no records of a distinct church would be accounted for. If they were only a branch church, their records would probably be merged in those of the Providence Church.* It is well known that the doctrine of laying-on-of-hands, was held by the First Church of Providence**, in a lax manner at its beginning, but it 'became afterwards a term of communion, and continued so until after Dr. Manning came among them; he prevailed with the church to admit to occasional communion those brethren who were not convinced of the duty of coming under hands; but very few such were received as members till after his death. On August 4, 1791, the church had a full meeting, when this point was deliberately considered, and a clear vote was gained to admit members who did not hold that doctrine. But notwithstanding this vote, the laying-on-of-hands, not as an ordinance, but as a form of receiving new members, was generally practiced until after the death of President Manning.*** The first church of Warwick was of the Six Principle order.
*On Friday, May 28, 1875, occurred the centennial anniversary of the opening of the First Baptist Church of Providence, when an interesting and valuable address was delivered by Hon. Samuel G. Arnold. From this address we make the following extract: 'The church records being in April, 1775, preceded by a list of members admitted from December, 1774, during the great revival, to June 30, 1782. Prefixed to the regular records, there is a 'History of the Baptist Church of Christ in Providence, Rhode Island, being the oldest Baptist Church in America', with an introduction prepared in 1789, by John Stanford, minister, then temporarily acting as pastor of the church. This is a brief summary of such events as could then be collected respecting the history of the church for a hundred and fifty years, from its foundation in 1639. Mr. Stanford's original manuscript of twenty folio pages, is preserved in the archives of the Society, and has very properly been copied into the first volume of the Church records. In 1828, a small pamphlet was printed under the direction of the late Nicholas Brown, then President of the Society, containing the charter and by laws, together with the 'minutes of the early proceedings of the Society from its first recorded meetings till 1793, when Dr. Gano was called to the pastorate.' In this tract of sixteen pages, are preserved a complete transcript from the records for the first sixteen months and the more important entries till the calling of Dr. Gano.'
**Benedict's Hist. Vol. I, 487.
*** Dr. Hague's Historical discourse, p. 107.
The alternative of supposing a branch church during a period of three-fourths of a century as existing here, would be that of supposing the strong personal influence and peculiar religious opinions of Samuel Gorton, who was a preacher, and sustained a religious meeting during this time, prevented the formation of any church, or the holding of any meetings that were not in accordance with his views. At first we were inclined to this view. But upon further research and consideration, the alternative was rejected. That Mr. Gorton held a meeting during this time is probable, but that the nucleus of the church, which assumed an independent existence about the year 1725, had existed many years previous as a branch of the First Church, Providence, seems worthy of credit.
Some account of Samuel Gorton and of his peculiar religious views, seem appropriate in this connection as belonging to the ecclesiastical history of the town. Though no church was formed in connection with his ministrations, he exerted a powerful influence upon the religious views of the colony. Benedict, in his history, says" 'Callender, Backus and others who have spoken of Gorton's religious opinions, acknowledge that it is hard to tell what he believed, but they assure us that it ought to be believed that he held all the heresies that were ascribed to him. The most we can learn is, that in allegory and double-meanings of scripture he was similar to Origen; in mystical theology and the rejection of ordinances, he resembled the Quakers; and the notion of the visible churches he utterly rejected.' That he held all the heresies that were ascribed to him, as intimated by Dr. Benedict, is hardly to be credited, as some of them that were published during the life of Gorton in 'Morton's New England Memorial', were distinctly disavowed by Gorton himself. The remark of Dr. Benedict is too sweeping, and does not accord with the statement of Callender, who says" 'There are sufficient reasons why we ought not and cannot believe he held all that are confidently fathered upon him. For it is certain, that, whatever impious opinions his adversaries imputed to him, and whatever horrid, consequences they drew from the opinions he owned, he ascribed as bad to them and fixed as dreadful consequences upon their tenets; and at the same time in the most solemn manner, denies and disavows many things they charge him with; above all, when he is charged with denying a future state and judgment to come, both in theory and practice, he peremptorily and vehemently denies the charge, and solemnly appeals to God and all that knew him, of the integrity of his heart and the purity of his hands; and avers that he always joins eternity with religion, as most essential. And that the doctrine of the general salvationists was the thing which his soul most hated. [Answer to Morton's Memorial, -- Calender, p. 92]. Calender further says: 'He strenuously opposed the doctrines of the people called Quakers. I am informed that he and his followers maintained a religious meeting on the first day of the week for above sixty years, and that their worship consisted of prayers to God, of preaching, or expounding the scriptures and singing of psalms.' Dr. Benedict says: 'He was a leader of a religious meeting in Warwick above sixty years.' This statement is incorrect, as he died in 1667, or twenty-five years from the founding of the town. The statement of Callender will come nearer to the truth 'that he and his followers' maintained a meeting for that length of time. No church was organized by him or his followers, but stated seasons of worship were held upon the Sabbath in which the gospel was dispensed freely to all who would listen to it. Among his chief heresies were the rejection of an organized visible church and the ordinances connected with it; and from these peculiar views and those of minor importance which grew out of them, sprang most of the trouble between him and the other religious sects. Morton in 'New England's Memorial', gave a summary of Gorton's religious opinions, which was published during Gorton's life. Gorton wrote to Mr. Morton denying some of the charges made against him in this book, especially that he had ever asserted that there was 'no state or condition after death', and says: 'I appeal to God, the judge of all secrets, that there never was such a thought entertained in my heart.' He further says in answer to another charge: 'we never called sermons of salvation, tales; nor any ordinances of the Lord, an abomination or vanity; nor holy ministers, necromancers; we honor, reverence and practice these things.' In this letter he refers to a book published by Mr. Winslow, which referred also to his sentiments, by which Gorton says he had read but little, but was informed by Mr. Brown, who had been a commissioner for the United Colonies, that 'he would maintain that there were forty lies published in that book.' The letter may be found in the Appendix to Judge Staples' edition of Simplicities Defence.
Without attempting to state the religious views of Gorton with any degree of precision, it may perhaps be safely said that the essential gospel truths, as held by the great body of evangelical christians of the present day, were those that were held and preached by this somewhat singular man. That the difference that existed between his opinions, with the exception of those specially noted, and those of Williams and others, was rather imaginary than real, and grew out of the peculiar way in which he expressed them, is evident. His published works are marvels of curious composition, with sentences so long and complicated, that it would make a school-master's blood run backwards, to analyze and parse them. Among these works the reader is referred to his 'Incorruptible Key', printed in London, in 1647; 'Saltmarsh returned from the Dead', printed in 1655; 'Antidote against pharasaical Teachers', and 'Antidote against the common Plague of the World'; 'Simplicities Defence against a Seven Headed Church Policy', published in England, in 1646. These, with a manuscript commentary on the Lord's Prayer, of more than a hundred pages, now in possesion of the R. I. Historical Society, will furnish the curious reader with ample material for studying the religious tenets of the man. His 'Simplicities Defence', is an historical narrative of the difficulties between the early settlers of this town and the colony of Massachusetts, growing out of the attempts of the latter to extend its jurisdiction over the lands and persons of the former. The account is written in his peculiar style, but is regarded as a fair account of the origin, progress, and issue of the unhappy controversy. Several valuable letters that passed between the parties during the time, are included it it, with much of a rambling theological character, in which the author delighted to indulge. The work is dedicated to the Earl of Warwick, whose friendly aid was received and duly acknowledged, and whom, as we have already stated, the settlers honored by giving his name to their town.*
*As a matter of curiosity, and as indicating Gorton's method of thought and style of composition, we give the following title pages to two of his works, his 'Incorruptible Key', and his 'Saltmarsh returned from the Dead'.
'AN INCORRUPTIBLE KEY, composed of the CX Psalme wherewith you may open the Rest of the Holy Scriptures: Turning itself only according to the Composure and Art of that Lock, of the Closure and Science of that Great Mysterie of God manifest in the Flesh, but justified only by the Spirit which it evidently openeth and revealeth, out of Fall and Resurrection, Sin and Righteousness, Ascension and Descension, Height and Depth, First and Last, Beginning and Ending, Flesh and Spirit, Wisdom and Foolishness, Strength and Weakness, Mortality and Immortality, Jew and Gentile, Light and Darkness, Unity and Multiplication, Fruitfulness and Barrenness, Care and Blessing, Man and Woman, All Suffering and Deficiency, God and Man. And out of every unity made up of twaine, it openeth that great two-leafed Gate which is the sole Entrie into the city of God of New Jerusalem, into which none but the king of Glory can enter; and as the Porter openeth the dorre of the Sheepfold, by which whosoever entereth in, is the Shepherd of the Sheep; See Isa. 45, 1; Psal. 24, 7, 8, 9, 10; John 10, 1,2,3; Or, (according to the signification of the word translated Psalme) it is a pruning knife, to lop off from the church of Christ all superfluous Twigs of earthly and carnal commandments. Levitical services or Ministry and fading and vanishing Priests or Ministers, who are confirmed by Death as holding no corresponency with the princely Dignity, Office and Ministry of an Melchisedek who is the only Ministry of the Santuary and of that true Tabernacle which the Lord pitcht and not Man. For it supplants the Old Man and implants the new; abrogates the Old Testament or Covenant and confirms the New into a thousand generations, or in generations forever. By Samuel Gorton, Gent. and at the same time of penning hereof, in the place of Judicature (upon Aquethneck alias Road Island) of Providence Plantations in the Nanhygansett Bay, New England. Printed in the yeere 1647.'
SALTMARSH RETURNED FROM THE DEAD in Amicus Philalethes: or the Resurrection of James the Apostle out of the Grave of Carnal Glosses for the correction of the universal Apostacy which cruelly hurried him who yet liveth. Appearing in the Comely Ornaments of his Fifth Chapter in an exercise, June 5, 1654. Having laid by his grave clothes in a despised village remote from England, but wishing well and heartily desiring the True Prosperity thereof.' - Mackie's Life of Gorton in Spark's Am. Biog.
That such language may have been perfectly intelligible to Gorton himself, we have no disposition to doubt; that it may have conveyed more to his contemporaries who were acquainted with the circumstances that called it forth, and had become familiar with such forms of expression, than to us, may be true. That it lacks a little of that perspicuity, which in modern times is regarded as an excellence in writing or speaking, is quite evident.
Gorton was a man of acknowledged native talent, and with all his literacy abstruseness and theological combativeness, exerted a large and for the most part a salutary influence in the community. When his opinions on civil or religious topics were opposed, he showed much of that quality that might be termed, 'otherwise-mindedness; and, at times, exhibited a 'superfluity of naughtiness', but otherwise was of a generous and sympathetic nature, and inclined to award to others the same liberty of thought and expression which he claimed for himself.
We close this account of him with an extract taken from the manuscript Itinerary of Dr. Styles, a former clergyman of Newport, and afterwards President of Yale College, as given by Judge Staples:
'At Providence, Nov. 18, 1771, I visited aged Mr. John Angell, ae. 80, born, Oct. 10, 1691, a plain, blunt-spoken man; right old English frankness. He is not a Quaker, nor Baptist, nor a Presbyterian, but a Gortonist, and the only one I have seen. Gorton now lives in him, his only disciple left. He says he knows of no other and that he is alone. He gave me an account of Gorton's disciples, first and last, and showed me some of Gorton's printed books and some of his manuscripts. He said Gorton wrote in heaven and no one can understand his writings, but those who live in heaven while on earth. He said that Gorton had beat down all outward ordinances of Baptism and the Lord's Supper with unanswerable demonstrations. That Gorton preached in London in Oliver's time, and had a church and living of L500 a year offered him, but he believed no sum would have tempted him to take a farthing for preaching. He told me that his grandfather, Thomas Angell, came from Salem to Providence with Roger Williams, that Gorton did not agree with Roger Williams, who was for outward ordinances set up by new apostles. I asked if Gorton was a Quaker; as he seemed to agree with them in rejecting outward ordinances. He said no; and that when George Fox (I think) or one of the first Friends came over; he went to Warwick to see Gorton, but was a mere babe to Gorton. The Friends had come out of the world some ways, but still were in darkness or twilight, but that Gorton was far beyond them, he said, high way up to the dispensation of light. The Quakers were in no way to be compared with him; nor any man else can, since the primitive times of the church, especially since they came out of Popish darkness. He said Gorton was a holy man; wept day and night for the sins and blindness of the world; his eyes were a fountain of tears, and always full of tears - a man full of thought and study - had a long walk out through the trees or woods by his house, where he constantly walked morning and evening, and even in the depth of the night, alone by himself, for contemplation and the enjoyment of the dispensation of light. He was universally beloved by all his neighbors and the Indians, who esteemed him not only as a friend, but one high in communion with God in heaven, and indeed he lived in heaven.'
In preparing the following accounts of the churches, the author communicated with the pastors or some leading members of the several churches now existing in the town, inviting them to furnish a brief sketch of their respective churches, for publication. In several instances the invitation was accepted, and in others the records of the churches were kindly placed in his hands to enable him to furnish the accounts. He regrets that in a few instances, either from a loss of the records or lack of interest in the subject, on the part of those to whom he applied, he has failed to receive the desired information concerning several. Where the accounts have been prepared by others, due acknowledgement has been given. In the other cases, where church records have been kindly placed in his hands from which to make up the accounts, such accounts have received, in each case, the approval of some or more of the leading members of the church, to whom they were submitted before publishing:
OLD BAPTIST CHURCH, OLD WARWICK.*
*The six principles, or doctrines, held by this church may be found in Hebrews VI, 1, 2.
This church, which has had for the past thirty years merely a nominal existence, is the oldest one in the town, having probably existed as a branch of the First Baptist Church of Providence, nearly or quite a half century before it assumed an independent existence. The earliest records of the church bear the date of 1741, though the origin of the body as a distinct and independent church, must have been as early as 1725. Backus' history mentions it in 1730 as then existing. Previous to that date, and reaching back to about the time of the first settlement of the town, it probably existed as a branch of the First Baptist Church of Providence, of which several of the original settlers of the town were constitutent members. Hence the history of the body previous to the organization as a separate church would be incorporated with that of the First church of Providence. As there are no original records of this latter church extant, previous to April, 1775, it is impossible to determine the exact status of the body previous to that date. In 1730, the church at Old Warwick consisted of 65 members, under the pastoral care of Elder Manasseh Martin.** Elder Martin having served the church as pastor upwards of 30 years, died March 20th, 1754. He lies buried in the cemetery near the site of the Meeting House where he preached. A heavy slab half embedded in the earth, with his name and date of death, marks the spot. His widow, who afterwards became the wife of Elder Charles Holden, lies beside him.
**See 'The History of the General or Six Principle Baptists in Europe and America', by Elder Richard Knight, published in 1827. Elder Knight was the esteemed and useful pastor of the Scituate church.
On the 18th of June, 1744, John Hammett was ordained as colleague of Mr. Martin, and seems to have extended his labors beyond the immediate precincts of Old Warwick, gathering many into the church from remote regions. He served the old church 'upwards of six years', according to the inscription upon his tombstone, dying in the 48th year of his age. He lies buried also, in the yard of the old meeting-house.
On June 16, 1757, Charles Holden was ordained pastor of the church, and continued to preach until old age and its infirmities compelled him to relinquish his post. He was ordained in the 62d year of his age, and died June 20th, 1785, in his ninetieth year. He lies buried in a quiet spot, some thirty or forty rods west of the residence of John Wickes Greene, Esq. Elder Holden had a son and also a grandson named Charles. Among his lineal descendants was the late John Holden, of Crompton, father of the late Thomas Holden, of Providence. Previous to the declaration of American Independence, it was customary for ministers, following the old English custom, to pray for the king in their public worship. One Sabbath after the Declaration , while the Elder was praying, forgetting for the moment the change that had taken place in the politcal condition of the country, he reached the place where the usual petition for the king came in, and before he was aware he uttered it -- 'we pray for the king and all in authority' - when suddenly checking himself and hesitating he added with emphasis - 'living in Rhode Island!' The limiting clause of the petition thus forcibly expressed, established his patriotism. In his will, Elder Holden made provision for the liberation of his several slaves. Dimmis was to have her freedom on the decease of her master, and her youngest son was given her until the age of twenty-one, when he was to be free. His slave Dinah was to be set at liberty at eighteen years of age, and Prince, Cato and Morocco, when they reached the age of twenty one, provided they behaved properly up to those ages. A small bequest was made to each of them in addition to their freedom.
Benjamin Sheldon was ordained assistant to Elder Holden, June 18, 1778, by Elders Holden, J. Wightman, John Gorton and Reuben Hopkins. October 10, 1782, Abraham Lippitt was ordained as an assistant elder in this church, by Elders Nathan Peirce, John Gorton*** and J. Wightman. About the year 1793, Elder Lippitt removed to the West, and the following year the church called Samuel Littlefield to the pastoral office, and he was ordained February 17, 1794. He continued to preach until about 1825, when he had a paralytic shock which laid him aside from active life.
*** Elder John Gorton was the pastor of the church at East Greenwich, for many years, and preached in a meeting house that stood not far from the shore, but which had been demolished many years. He was a descendant of Samuel Gorton, one of the first settlers of the town, and the great-grandfather of Mrs. Wm. B. Spencer of Phenix. He officiated at the marriage of General Nathaniel Greene. An old book before me, owned by Mr. Henry W. Greene, the leaves of which are partly of the 'Stamp' paper of the times, and bound in sheep skin, with a brazen clasp, contains the records of 281 marriages, in Elder Gorton's writing. The first marriage, that of Anthony Low and Phebe Greene, bears the date of January 1, 1754, the last, that of George Finney and Hanahretty Matthews, daughter of Caleb Matthews, May 4, 1792. The Warwick and Coventry Baptist Church was organized at the house of Caleb Matthews, October 21, 1805.
illustration on page 309:
THE OLD MEETING HOUSE, OLD WARWICK.
(From a pencil sketch by Mrs. C. W. Colgrove.)
The old meeting-house, a sketch of which is given in the engraving, was built by this church at an early date, and is probably the earliest one built in this town of which any knowledge at present exists. It was taken down in the spring of 1830. It was in a very decayed condition when demolished. Its size was about forty feet square, with two doors, one on the side facing the Conimicut road, a double door, and one fronting Meeting-House road, so called. In the rear was a burying ground, owned by the Low family. The building was without bell or steeple. Its internal arrangements were peculiar: the platform for the preacher was raised some two or three feet, with a small desk for the Bible to rest upon, and in the rear were seats for the preacher, the deacon and the constable. The deacon usually lined off the hymns for the singers. There were three large square pews in front of the platform, and their occupants were supposed to be entitled to special respect. Other pews ranged along the sides of the building, with one long pew for the deacon's family. The seats for the congregation generally, were rude benches. There were galleries on two sides of the house with stairways leading up to them from the audience room. The whole interior was open to the roof. Before the old house was given up, it had become so dilapidated, that the case of the Hebrew sanctuary mentioned by David in the eighty-fourth psalm was repeated -- 'the sparrow hath found a house and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O lord of Hosts' - and meetings were held in the school-house. A farewell service was held in it October 4, 1829, and is still remembered by some who were present, and from whom the writer has received these items.**** Elder Wm. Manchester on that day batpized, at a place called the 'new bridge', Mary Almira and Louisa Waterman. It was sold soon after, and a portion of the materials worked up into the dwelling-house that now stands nearly opposite the residence of John Holden, Esq.
****John Wickes Greene, Esq., a former member and clerk of the old church, and others.
Their new house, the one now occupied by the Shawomet Baptist Church, was dedicated in 1829, Elder Wm. C. Manchester preaching the sermon, from Ge. xxviii, 17. The pastor at the time was Elder Job Manchster, who had been ordained October, 1828. He was from Coventry, and had married a daughter of the late Thomas Stafford, one of their leading members. He is said to have been an able minister, and by his liberal and enlightened views prepared the way for the future enlargement of the church. An extensive revival was enjoyed during the year 1829, in which twenty-two persons united with the church. In 1843 he resigned his charge and removed to Providence, where he united with the Stewart Street Baptist Church. He died August 9th, 1859, aged 75.* In 1830, in a letter to the 'General Meeting', they reported fifty-four members. Their prospects from this time began to wane, their members were gradually reduced by death and dismission, until dependent upon occasional supplies in preaching, they became disheartened and finally gave up their meetings. They have had only a nominal existence for many years. Mr. Daniel Arnold, of Crompton, who died last year, left legacies to this church, and to those at Crompton and Birch Hill, which has brought to light the existence of a few members, who claim to be the church; their names are Benoni Lockwood, Aurelia Weaver, Lucy A. Lockwood, and Eliza T. Lockwood.
*Elder Job Manchester was a skillful mechanic as well as an able pastor and preacher. As early as 1816 he invented a power loom, for weaving cotton cloth, and in 1818 made some improvements on the Bed Tick or Twilled work, looms. He was a practical machinist. See 'Transactions of the R. I. Society for the Encouragement of Domestic Industry' for 1864, pp. 6-76.
As there was some doubt existing as to the ownership of the land upon which the house was built, the town, at a meeting held April 15, 1829, made the following provision, viz.:
'Whereas certain public spirit Individuals in the Town of Warwick, have it in contemplation to erect a Meeting House for the worship of Almighty God, in that Section of the Town ususally called Old Warwick, and on Land near the school house which Land is represented to have been originally reserved by the proprietors for the purpose of Education and as a tanning field; and doubts have arisen Whether the Town may not possess an Interest in said Land either by Escheat or some other title, Now therefore with the intention of promoting a project so Laudable by perfecting the title of the Individuals aforesaid. It is voted, That it shall be the duty of the Treasurer of the Town whenever a Meeting House aforesaid shall have been erected to Release on the part of the Town all Right and Title to that part of the Lot whereon it may be placed. It being understood that the same is to Include a piece of Ground Eight rods square.'
OLD BAPTIST CHURCH AT APPONAUG.
At a church meeting held at Old Warwick, of which Elder Manasseh Martin was pastor, Dec. 6, 1744, Benjamin Peirce and wife, Ezrikham Peirce and wife, Edward Case and wife, John Budlong, and such others as wished to form a church at the Fulling Mill, of the same faith and order, were granted leave. Several members from East Greenwich united with them, and the church was duly organized. Benjamin Peirce was ordained their minister. They eventually erected a meeting house, 'on an eminence East of the village of Apponaug which commanded an extensive prospect of this village, river, islands and surrounding country.' It stood nearly opposite of the present residence of C. R. Hill, Esq. There is a tradition that it was built at the suggestion of Elder Peter Worden, who in 1758-9 had built a house of worship in Coventry, '28 feet long by 26 feet wide and two stories high', and preached in it many years and afterwards settled in Apponaug. It is said that this house was of the same dimensions as the one in Coventry which became known in later times as the Elder Charles Stone meeting house, Elder Stone having been the successor of Elder Worden. Mr. Worden was born near Westerly, June 6, 1728, and is represented as a man of large stature, with a powerful voice, and a useful rather than a very intellectual man. After leaving Apponaug, he removed to Cheshire, Mass., in 1770, where another edition of '28 by 26' without revisal or improvement was erected, and where he continued to hold forth the word of life. He died in 1808, in his 80th year. He preached in Coventry and Warwick nineteen years.
The church became involved in difficulty owing to some change in the religious sentiments of Elder Pierce (sic), and diminished in members and was finally dissolved, and 'their meeting house went to decay for many years'. At what precise period this occurred does not appear, but it was previous to the revolutionary war.
Elder Knight, in his history, makes no mention of any other pastor than Elder Peirce, in connection with this church, and it is probable that the connection of Elder Worden was of short duration. Of the subsequent history of Elder Peirce the writer has no knowledge. The Peirces furnished a number of Elders to the church in different places. Elder Nathan Peirce and Philip Peirce, brothers, were ordained in the same church about the year 1800. The latter soon after removed west.
Soon after the close of the revolutionary war another church was organized. The date of the organization is given by Elder Knight in one part of his work as 1785, and in another as 1792. As we have had no access to the original records we are unable to settle the point. David Corpe, a member of the East Greenwich church, from which the new one was set off, was ordained their pastor. They occupied the old house, which was repaired and made comfortable. Elder Corpe, becoming advanced in years and reduced in pecuniary means, resigned his trust and removed to an estate which he held in the northwest part of the State. Elder Spooner was his successor, having been appointed by the yearly meeting to supply them with preaching once a month. The tide of prosperity turned against them, and in 1805 the church followed the example of its predecessor and became extinct.
The old meeting house, after resounding with the messages of the Gospel for many years, finally lost its identity more than fifty years ago, and a portion of it may be found in a private residence a few rods north of the spot where it originally stood. There are a few persons now living who remember it, as the place where in their childhood they were accustomed to assemble on the Sabbath and listen to the lengthy discourses of the early preachers.
THE BETHEL SIX PRINCIPLE BAPTIST CHURCH.
This church is a grandchild of the Old Warwick Church. The Coventry or 'Maple Root' Church* was set off from the latter church, May 17, 1744, though the latter church does not appear to have been formally organized until Oct. 14, 1762. The church for many years and until 1857, was known as the Phenix Branch of the Maple Root Church. While sustaining this relation to the Maple Root, worship was conducted in the Arkwright school house and the private houses in Phenix, until the school house was built in the latter place in 1827, when the building was used one Sabbath per month until the church built a meeting house. Elder Thomas Tillinghast preached many years in the old Arkwright school house, and when the Phenix school house was built, divided a monthly Sabbath between the two school houses. In 1838, they built a meeting house in Phenix, which was the second house built in that village for exclusive religious purposes. The building committee were Dea. Johnson, Wm. C. Ames and Robert Levalley. The house was built by John R. Brayton, now of Knightsville, who built the Tatem Meeting House previously. The house was about sixty feet long, thirty-six wide, with eighteen feet posts, and is said to have cost about $3,000. This was a large sum in those days, and, as it proved, a larger one that the church was able to pay, and the debt incurred resulted in disaster to the church. After struggling along for many years the church became somewhat divided and weakened, and their house was sold at public auction to Dr. McGreggor for $1,000, who afterwards sold it to Cyrus Manchester for $1,100. On Sept. 25, 1851, it was again sold to Wm. B. Spencer, Esq., who finally converted it into tenements, for which purpose it is still used.
*This church is usually, now, called the 'Maple Root Church'. Elder Knight, the historian of the denomination, calls it the 'Maypole' Root Church, and I am informed by Dea. Andrews, it is so designated in the earliest records of the church.
The last pastor of the Phenix Branch Church was Elder Stephen Thomas, whose denominational sentiments underwent some change, and in the year 1851, he closed his labors, and subsequently became pastor of the present Baptist Church at Natick. Elder Thomas afterwards became pastor at Holme's Hole, now called Vineyard Haven, where he died a few years ago. The church was now houseless and pastorless, and continued in an unsettled condition until it gathered up its little remaining strength about the year 1857, and made arrangements for the building of a new house of worship at Birch Hill.
In June, 1857, a petition signed by ninety-four persons, members of the 'Maple Root' Church in Coventry, setting forth that they had 'for a long time been known as the Phenix Branch of said Coventry Church', and had now erected a house of worship at Birch Hill, was presented to the said Maple Root Church, praying that they might be organized into a separate and independent body. Among the petitioners were Elders Benjamin B. Cottrell, Henry B. Locke and Nathaniel W. Warren (sic). On the third of the following month the petition was granted, and on the twenty-sixth of that month, they were duly organized as a district church. Elder Thomas Tillinghast, preached Ephesians II, 19, 20, 21. Elders B. B. Cottrell, H. B. Locke and N. W. Warner participated in the exercises. At this point the records, which have been very well kept by the several clerks, begin.
On Saturday, August 22, 1857, Elder Thomas Tillinghast, was chosen pastor, and Wanton A. Whitford, clerk. On Oct. 31, 1858, 'Elder B. B. Cottrell, Dea. Benjamin Essex and W. A. Whitford were appointed trustees to receive and hold in trust a deed of a lot of land on Birch Hill in Warwick, appropriated for a meeting house for said church and denomination.' The house was regarded by some as too small, and at a meeting held Jan. 9, 1859, a proposition was made to enlarge the 'Bethel', by an addition of twelve feet to its length, and Dea. Essex, Henry Remington and W. A. Whitford, were appointed a committee to make the alterations. The funds for making the proposed addition did not seem to be forthcoming, and the committee hesitated to commence the work of building under the circumstances, and on the following October were instructed to make the addition 'forthwith', on the front of the house. The addition was accordingly made and a debt incurred, which became a serious obstacle to the prosperity of the church. The building had to be mortgaged, and was in danger of following in the steps of the previous house at Phenix. Failing to obtain funds by subscription, the money was subsequently raised by festivals held about ten years ago under the direction of Mrs. Bowen A. Sweet, one of the members, the amount of $675 being raised, more than sufficient to clear the house of debt.
Previous to the year 1860, the covenant meetings were held at Arkwright every other month, and the communion monthly at the Bethel, subsequently it was voted to hold the communion services once in three months at Arkwright. On March 25, 1860, Wanton A. Whitford, was ordained as a deacon. Previous to the ordination the candidate was questioned as to his religious views, and also his views on the subjects of Temperance and Slavery. 'The wife of the candidate was then called upon to express her mind in regard to her becoming a Deacon's wife, when she arose and expressed a willingness to do her duty in that respect.' April 28, 1861, Henry Remington, a member of the church, was ordained to the gospel ministry, and afterwards became assistant pastor. April 16, 1864, Bowen A. Sweet was elected church clerk, in which position he has continued to the present time.
At a covenant meeting held August 28, 1864, a letter was sent to the Association, in which it is stated that they had had no pastor since the death of Elder Thomas Tillinghast, that the church had been passing through severe trials, and giving as their statistics the following: Dismissed by letter, 4; excluded, 4; dropped, 4; dead, 1; Total, 138. Oct. 23, 1864, Elder Samuel Arnold was unanimously elected pastor, and accepted the position.
At a meeting held Jan. 26, 1868, Elder Arnold, upon petition of several members of the Bethel Church, residing in Swansey (sic), read the following resolution, which was adopted: 'Voted and resolved, that the Brethren and Sisters of this church, residing in the State of Massachusetts, be set off as a branch of the same, to be called the Swansey Branch, together with such privilege of receiving and dismissing members and holding communion.' Number of members in September, 1874, 115.
Elder Samuel Arnold still continues the pastor of the church, though living in Providence, and preaching at the Bethel but once a month. Elder Nathaniel W. Warner lived at Natick, where he died August 6th, 1858. Elder Henry B. Locke died November 10, 1865. Elder B. B. Cottrell, also one of the constituent members of this church, is at present the acceptable pastor of the Tabernacle Church in Fiskeville. By his efforts a Meeting House was built at a cost of about $1,700, which was dedicated July 24th, 1873, and a church soon after organized. Dea. Benjamin Essex, who has resided in the vicinity for the past twenty-six years, and is also one of the constituent members of the church, still serves the church as deacon, and continues as prompt and punctual in his religious duties, as the 'Regulator' that hangs in his workshop, and ticks away the time in measured beats from year to year. The late Daniel Arnold, of Crompton, bequeathed to this church a portion of his personal property, but the exact amount the church will receive is not at present known.
CROMPTON SIX PRINCIPLE BAPTIST CHURCH.
In the winter of 1841, six persons who subsequently united with others in the formation of this church, commenced holding meetings in the old Centreville school-house. Their meetings were interesting, and a revival soon followed, which resulted in the conversion of about thirty persons who were baptized most of them into the fellowship of the Maple Root church, in Coventry. Elder Henry B. Locke had come from the southern part of the State and united with the Maple Root Church, and seems to have been a successful laborer with his little band of brethren. Before the middle of April he baptized the thirty converts, who united with the Maple Root church. April 23, 1842, a petition was presented to the Maple Root church, signed by thirty eight persons, praying to be set off as a Branch Church. The prayer was granted, and Elder H. B. Locke was chosen pastor, C. A. Carpenter, deacon and William Rice, clerk. Elder Lock remained the pastor until November, 1843, and was followed by Elder William P. Place, who continued in office until April 19, 1857, and then removed to Pennsylvania, remaining there about a year and then returned to Rhode Island.
Soon after the brethren were set off from the mother church in Coventry as a branch, they united their efforts to secure a permanent place for worship. Mrs. Sarah Remington, widow of James E. Remington, gave them a lot of land consisting of about a quarter of an acre, on certain conditions, among which were, that the church should build a meeting-house upon it within six months, keep it in good repair and use it, or allow it to be used only for religious purposes, failing in which, the lot was to revert to the grantor, her heirs, assigns, &c. The deed, which is dated December 26, 1843, further provided 'that said house shall be open and free for all religious societies, when not occupied by said branch of the Crompton Mills Six Principle Baptist Society.' The house was dedicated September 7th, 1844. The church continued as a branch of the Maple Root, until April 10, 1845, when it was formally organized as an independent church. On September 6, 1845, it united with the yearly Conference. November 28, 1850, William Rice was ordained as a deacon.
At the conclusion of Elder Place's labors, Elder Locke was recalled to the pastorate, and remained two years, when he died. Elder Wilcox preached two Sabbaths a month, for several years and until his last sickness. In the spring of 1868, Elder Ellery Kenyon became pastor, and continued until January 15, 1871, when he resigned. Sunday May 15, 1870, Wm. R. Johnson was baptized, and on the same day was ordained to the ministry, the ordination services being conducted by Elders Kenyon, Arnold and Wilcox. On March 23, 1871, the church unanimously elected Elder Wm . R. Johnson as its pastor and he continued thus until the present year. The church at present is without a pastor, though enjoying the preaching of Elder Slocum.
William Rice, C. A. Carpenter, C. M. Seekell and William Price have served the church as deacons; William Rice, E. W. Sweet, John Wood, Sheldon H. Tillinghast, Wm P. Place, as clerks. The present clerk, is Eben W. Sweet. The late Daniel Arnold bequeathed to this church a portion of his personal property, the exact amount of which, has not yet been determined.
CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH, RIVER POINT.
On the 7th of February, 1849, an ecclesiastical council convened at the meeting-house, at River Point, for the purpose of organizing an Evangelical Congregational Church. After the usual preliminaries, the council voted unanimously in favor of the project, and organized the following persons as a church, viz: John L. Smith, Jeremiah K. Aldrich, Brigham C. Deane, Mary Greene, Phila B. Deane, Priscilla G. Seagraves, Hannah L. Sweet, Lucy Hill, Hannah Hall and Susan E. Smith.
Rev. George Uhler at the time of the organization of the church, appears to have been preaching in the place, and was engaged by the church as its 'stated supply', although he is spoken of in subsequent records as the pastor of the church. He continued his labors until ill health induced him to relinquish his position, June 12, 1853. On the following June 13th, a call was extended to Rev. S. B. Goodenow, at a salary of $700, which was accepted, and Mr. Goodenow entered upon his work the first Sabbath in December 1853, and remained until June 5, 1855, when he resigned and went to Ulster, N. Y. From this time, the church having become somewhat weakened by loss of quite a number of its members, was without regular pastoral labor until 1857, with the exception of about nine months in 1856, when Rev. Mr. Woodbury officiated as a supply.
Rev. George W. Adams was installed pastor of the church, September 30, 1857, and died after a somewhat prolonged sickness, December 9, 1862. Mr. Adams was a sound theologian and an excellent pastor, and was beloved by the church and community. He was a diligent student and prepared his sermons with much care. We remember hearing him say that he had sixty fully written sermons that he had never preached. His death most deeply afflicted his family. Rev. Mr. Williams, who had been supplying the church during the pastor's illness, continued to preach until February, when several of the pastors connected with the Rhode Island Congregational Association kindly volunteered their services in supplying the pulpit until the last Sabbath in April, in order that the salary of the deceased pastor might be continued to his bereaved family.
On Feb. 6, 1864, the church by an unanimous invitation engaged the Rev. J. K. Aldrich to supply the pulpit the following year. This arrangement continued until August, 1867, when Mr. Aldrich removed to East Bridgewater, Mass., to assume the pastoral care of the Union Congregational Church in that place. Mr. Aldrich was during this time, as for several years previously, also, Principal of an English and Classical School in the vicinity. He was followed by Rev. Lyman H. Blake, who received a call from the church Oct. 6, 1867, and was ordained and installed as pastor on Nov. 14th, following. Mr. Blake continued the pastor until Oct. 3, 1869, when he resigned to assume a pastorate at Rowley, Mass. Since then the church has been without a settled pastor, though enjoying during most of the time the ministrations of the word from various ministers, as 'stated', or occasional supplies. Like nearly all churches it has had its seasons of adversity as well as of prosperity. One hundred and twenty-five persons have had their names enrolled upon its list of membership, sixty-two of whom were received on their confession of faith in the Redeemer, and the remainder by letters. Ten have died while members, two were excommunicated, and fifty-eight dismissed to unite with other churches, leaving the present number (April, 1875) fifty-five. John L. Smith and Henry Harris have served the church as deacons, and Jeremiah K. Adams, George T. Arnold and Thomas M. Holden as clerks. The records of this church have been unusually well kept, some of its clerks not only recording the ordinary business of the church, but also the births, marriages and deaths of those connected with it.
THE WARWICK AND COVENTRY BAPTIST CHURCH.*
*The account of this church is from a recent discourse of the pastor, in commemoration of the seventieth anniversary of its organization.
The house of worship connected with this church is located in the village of Crompton. The legal title of the society, which is composed of such persons as are elected from the male members of the church, none other being eligible, is, The First Baptist Society of Warwick. The society possesses and controls the church property. The church is one of the mother churches of the town, having formerly embraced within her parish boundaries the territory now shared by about a score of churches of various orders which she has seen spring up around her. For this reason a somewhat extended account of her origin and progress may perhaps be allowed.
Three periods may be noticed. The first, extending from the organization to the building of the 'Tin Top' meeting-house in Quidnick, in 1808; the second, from that event to the building of the meeting-house in Crompton, in 1843; and the third, from that year to the present time.
The first period embraces only about two and a half years of time, and was of an unsettled, migratory character, in which the church wandered about from place to place seeking for a permanent home. It commenced October 21, 1805, on which date a number of converts belonging to East Greenwich, Warwick and North Kingstown, met at East Greenwich, at the house of Mr. Caleb Mathews, and after due consideration, decided 'to unite together under the name of the United Brethren and Sisters of East Greenwich, Warwick and North Kingstown.' On the 11th of November following, a council consisting of delegates from the First and the Second Baptist Churches of Providence, and one at Rehoboth and the one at North Kingstown, assembled, and after the usual examinations, recognized them as a Christian church, with the title of 'The Baptist Church of East Greenwich, Warwick and North Kingstown'. Thirty-seven persons, nine of whom were men, composed the organization. With the exception of Deacon Shaw and his wife, who were received by letter from the First Church, Providence, they appear to have been at the time but recently converted. Asa Niles, an unordained brother, had been preaching in East Greenwich and Centreville, and revival blessings had followed his earnest labors. Quite a number of persons had been converted, who afterwards united in the formation of this church. Though Mr. Niles did not join the new church, and was not formally recognized as its pastor, he continued to preach for it until the May following, when the care of the church was given to the Rev. David Curtis.
Rev. Asa Niles was born in Braintree, Mass., Feb. 10, 1777. While in business in Boston, he attended Dr. Baldwin's church and was converted. Being convinced of his duty to preach the gospel, he gave up his business and moved to Beverly, where he studied with 'Father Williams'. Rev. Mr. Williams had several students at the time. Having finished his studies, he came to Rhode Island as a missionary, and labored at Pawtucket, Pawtuxet, East Greenwich and Centreville. He was an earnest, pointed preacher, and the truths that he uttered awakened much opposition among 'the baser sort', some of whom in the villages of Pawtuxet and East Greenwich threatened him with personal violence. At one time, while he was preaching, one of his class threw a stone at him through a window, which passed by his head, striking a woman and breaking her arm. Elder Niles kept the stone for about twenty-five years. At another time they took his horse, on which he rode to his appointments, and sheared his mane and tail, but it does not appear that he preached any less faithfully on account of these persecutions. After leaving this church, he preached in Middletown, Conn., four years; Windsor, Vt., four years; Salem, Mass., six years; Scituate, Mass., Weare, N. H., Haverhill, Mass., and then went to Middleboro, Mass., where he died April 15, 1849, at the age of 72 years. His mind became impaired at the age of sixty-five, and there was a gradual decay of his mental powers until he died. At his funeral there were six of his eight fellow ministers, who bore grateful testimony to his worth as a servant of Christ.
The church worshipped at East Greenwich a portion of the time in the the Court House and also in an old meeting-house that has since been destroyed. At Centreville they worshipped in the school-house, in the building now used by Mr. Gould as a wheelwright's shop. This building had been erected for both school and religious purposes and, was solemnly dedicated to God with appropriate services. The Methodists also used it a part of the time. It was furnished with a gallery for the singers over the entrance, and is remembered gratefully by the few remaining individuals who were interested worshippers at the time. The larger portion of the church residing in the region of Centreville, it was finally decided to erect a suitable santuary where they would be better accommodated, and Quidnick being a central position, was chosen as the place. In view of this the church voted on the 27th of February, 1808, to change its name to the Baptist Church of Warwick and Coventry, which it still remains. This closes the first period of its history.
The first event of importance in the second period is the erection of the new meeting-house, which soon became widely known as the 'Tin Top', so called from the steeple or cupola being covered with tin. Its dimensions were sixty feet long by forty feet wide, with a commodious vestry. Its galleries extended around three sides of the building. The building was framed in Providence, and rafted down the river and around to Apponaug, and thence drawn by teams to the place of erection. It is said to have been raised and completed in two months, and cost $3,300. The land on which it stands was given by Mr. Jacob Greene. Probably no building ever erected in Kent County ever awakened so much interest as this. People living miles away, with curiosity excited, came and viewed it with wondering delight. Boys from the neighboring villages ran away from school, attracted by its glittering tower. Large congregations gathered for worship within its walls, and the church, with grateful pride, viewed the result of their toils and sacrifices. They had assumed, however, more pecuniary responsibility than they felt able to bear, and, in accordance with the custom of the times, they applied for and received of the General Assembly permission to raise $2,000 by a lottery. (Similar grants had been made to other churches. One to St. John's Church, Providence, in March 23, 1762, for $1,000; one for $2,500 to Trinity Church, June 8, 1767, Newport; one to the First Baptist Church, Providence, for L2,000, in June 1774, and at different dates to various other churches.) The plan did not succeed as well as was expected. After lingering along for years, the grant was sold to 'Peirce & Burgess for $500, and John Allen was authorized to spent the money in repairing the house'. The 'Tin Top', at this period, occassionally resounded with the voices of other ministers beside that of the pastor, and there are those now living who remember hearing Dr. Stephen Gano, the pastor of the First Church, Providence; President Asa Messer, of Brown University; Dr. Benedict, of Pawtucket; Rev. J Pitman, and others, within its walls. On the 10th of September, 1810, the church joined the Warren Association. The church held their stated Sabbath worship in the meeting-house until about 1830. Up to this time various places were used for evening worship, and frequently, upon the Sabbath, in Crompton. Among the buildings used for such purposes was the old 'Cotton House', a building since removed, which stood just back of the Crompton Company's stable, and the old 'Weave Shop', not far from Deacon Spencer's store, on the opposite side of the road. Elder Curtis wrote me before he died that he taught an evening school there, as well as held meetings, and that many of his pupils were there converted. The 'Hall' house, that has since been removed farther south on the turnpike, opposite the site of the old Cotton House, was also used for religious purposes, and other buildings as they could be obtained, up to the time when the 'Store Chamber' was fitted up for a place of worship. It is said that the place where the church was worshipping, at the time Elder Ross was the pastor, 'became too straight for the people, and especially so for the minister', and larger and better quarters were provided in the Store Chamber. This item fixes the time at about 1830, when they entered the latter place. The church, from this time, held its regular Sabbath services in Crompton, instead of Quidneck. The 'Tin Top' was leased for a time to other worshippers, and was finally sold at public auction to Wm. B. Spencer, Esq., in trust for the Rhode Island Baptist State Convention, for the sum of $320. It still remains in possession of the Convention, though occupied by the Quidnick Baptist Church, which was organized in 1851.
Rev. David Curtis, son of William Curtis, was born in East Stoughton, Mass., Feb. 17, 1782. He was educated at Brown University, where he graduated in 1808. He was married to Rhoda Keach, of Smithfield, R. I., June, 1810, by Rev. Dr. Gano. His wife was born June 15, 1790, and died Nov. 26, 1864, at East Stoughton. Elder Curtis died at the same place Sept. 12, 1869. There are two sisters of Elder Curtis now living. He had thirteen children, two of whom are now living. One of his sisters married Rev. George Winchester, a Methodist clergyman. On February 6, 1819, Elder Curtis took a letter from the church and united with that of Pawtucket. He was pastor at the latter place at two different times, and in 1821-22 was the postmaster. The post office occupied a part of the house in which he lived, which is now standing, and is the first one south of the bridge on the west side of the street. He preached about two years at Harwich, Mass., and about the same length of time at New Bedford. He then removed to Abington, Mass., where he remained about eight years, a part of which time he was the pastor of the church there. He then removed to Fiskeville, R. I., and preached about two years, also about two years at Chepachet. For the last twenty-five years of his life he lived in East Stoughton, preaching as he had opportunity to various churches, but without being settled as a pastor. On the death of his father he was left with some property, from which he derived a comfortable support during the latter years of his life. For many years previous to his death he made an annual pilgrimage to the scenes of his early labors, where he was always welcomed to the pulpit of the church and to the homes of the people.
Elder Curtis was followed in the pastoral office by Rev. Levi Walker, M. D., who united with the church January 2, 1819, though it appears he had preached to the church already two years. Business in the village of Crompton was in a depressed state, growing out of the failure of the manufacturing company, and the church found itself less able than ususal to support a pastor. I find on the records of the church a vote by which they agreed to raise for Dr. Walker the sum of fifty dollars for the year. The doctor found it necessary to eke out his small salary by exercising his skill in the healing art. Though the scriptures declare that man shall not live by bread alone, they do not ignore the fact that some bread is necessary. Mr. Walker remained the pastor until December, 1819, and then took a letter and united with the church at Preston, Conn., where he became the pastor.
Dr. Walker was born in 1784. His childhood was spent in Livermore, Maine. He experienced religion about the year 1804, and was for about twelve years a zealous Methodist preacher. His views on the subject of baptism underwent a change, and he united with the Baptist Church in Fall River, then under the pastoral care of Elder Borden. In 1807 he married Phebe Burroughs, a daughter of Elder Peleg Burroughs, pastor of the Free Will Baptist Church, in Tiverton, R. I. Dr. Walker preached in Fall River, New Bedford and Edgartown previous to his settlement over this church. After leaving Preston, Conn., he removed to North Stonington, where he continued to preach and practice medicine until about the time of his death. He died in Winstead, Conn., at the age of 87. 'As a preacher he was clear, logical and convincing, rising at times to points of highest excellece, both in matter and manner.' He possessed considerable skill as a physician. He had three sons who entered the ministry, viz.: Rev. W. C. Walker, now State Missionary in Connecticut; Rev. Levi Walker, Jr., deceased, and Rev. O. T. Walker, for several years pastor of Bowdoin Square Church, Boston, now pastor of the Third Baptist Church, Providence.
The third pastor, Rev. Jonathan Wilson, received a call from the church to the pastorate April 5, 1823, which he accepted, and united with the church June 8th following, and remained until February 19, 1830. During this period a slight difficulty arose, occasioned by a portion of the church desiring to have a young brother whom the church had licensed, preach half the time and Mr. Wilson the other half. Mr. Wilson went off to the southern part of the State and preached about six months, the Rev. Seth Ewer, an agent of the State Convention, preaching in the meantime. He then returned and resumed labors to the above date. Elder Wilson is spoken of as an able preacher, but was not thoroughly established in his religious sentiments. He went west and became a Millerite. As late as 1847 he returned to the east, and preached a few weeks in Providence, with the expectation of being soon translated to heaven. It is said he carried his ascension robes with him in his preaching journeys. About this time he made a visit to Centreville, calling on John Allen, who, doubtless, scratched his elbow, but refused to be converted to the views of his former pastor. His subsequent history is unknown.
The fourth pastor was Rev. Arthur A. Ross, who united with the church July 4, 1830, and closed his labors December 18, 1834. The parsonage house was built by Henry Hamilton for John Allen, in 1831, who afterwards gave it to the church.
Elder Ross was born in Connecticut, October, 1790. Mr. Ross' first settlement was in Thompson, Conn., in 1819, where he remained four years. He was pastor successively at Chepatchet, one or two years; Fall River, Mass., three years; Bristol, Warwick and Coventry Church, First Church, Newport, seven years; Lonsdale, two years; Natick, and the Second, or High Street Church, at Pawtucket, the latter place about two years. He died in Pawtucket, June 16, 1864, in his seventy-fourth year, and was buried in the cemetery of his wife's relatives near Cumberland Hill. During his ministry he baptised over 1400 persons. He was a laborious and successful pastor, a plain, outspoken preacher. While pastor at Newport he published a discourse, 'Embracing the Civil and Religious History of Rhode Island', from the first settlement of the island to the close of the second century.
The fifth pastor, Rev. Thomas Dowling, united with the church June 5, 1836; closed his labors August, 1840.
Mr. Dowling was born in Brighton, Sussex county, England, April 2, 1809. He is a brother of Rev. John Dowling, D.D., of New York. Baptised by Rev. Charles Carpenter, pastor of the Baptist Church, Somer's Town, London; was licensed to preach in October, 1830, and labored as a local preacher in London and vicinity until September, 1833, when he sailed for this country. Was ordained as pastor of the Baptist Church in Catskill, N.Y., January 14, 1834; become pastor at Trumansburg, N.Y., January 1, 1835, from which place he came to this church. From here he went to the Third Church in North Stonington, Connecticut, and has continued to labor in that State ever since, (with the exception of two years at Agawam, Mass.,) having been settled as pastor at Willimantic, Central, Thompson, Tolland, and other places. In 1873 he resumed the pastorate at Tolland, where he now resides.
Mr. Dowling probably closed his labors as pastor a short time previous to his taking a letter from the church, as during the interval preceeding the settlement of the next pastor, Rev. Dr. D. W. Phillips, now President of the Nashville Institute, in Tennessee, but then a student of Brown University, supplied the church for about six months, preaching at the Tin Top and the Store Chamber. Dr. Phillips recently revisited the scene of his early labors, and preached for the church on the second Sabbath of June of the present year, receiving a contribution from the church and Sabbath school of $72.00 for the work in which he is engaged.
The sixth pastor was Rev. Thomas Wilkes, who united with the church November 8, 1840; closed his labors August, 1842.
Mr. Wilkes subsequently removed to the city of New York, where he ministered to a congregation of Swedenborgians. His ministry there appears to have been of short duration. The three principal members of his congregation, from whom he received his principal pecuniary support, it is said, failed him; one died, another failed in business, and the third removed from the city. Of his subsequent history I have no knowledge.
January 16, 1842, six persons were dismissed to unite with others at Phenix to form a new Baptist church, and the pastors and three delegates were appointed to attend the council to be held there on the 20th of that month.
As we look over the records to learn what measure of prosperity attended the efforts of the church during this second period of its history, we conclude that God blest their efforts abundantly. There were special seasons of refreshing, to which we shall refer hereafter, and seasons of spiritual drought; times when they were led to rejoice, and others when they were in heaviness. Up to this time the church had a large field to cultivate compared with its present limited one. Previous to 1840 there was no church of the same order in any of the villages about us. Since then the churches at Phenix, Natick, Coventry Central, the present Quidnick Church, and the one at Old Warwick, have all been organized. The population was, also, almost entirely native, where now it is so largely foreign.
The third and last period of its history, extending from 1843 to the present time, is more generally known, and will be considered briefly.
On February 21, 1843, a special church meeting was held in Centreville, but at what house the record does not indicate. At this meeting among those present, now living among us, and as interested in the present progress of the church now as at that time, were Bro. Albert H. Arnold and Deacon Alfred Dawley. 'Bro. John Allen made a proposition to the church that he would build a meeting house for them on condition that the church would build a vestry to place the house upon.' The church voted to accept the offer. An agreement was then made as follows, Bro. Allen agreed to build a house of wood, '40 by 50 feet, paint and furnish the same in modern style excepting cushions and lamps.' The church agreed to purchase a lot and build a vestry in a style to correspond with the house, furnish it with cushions, lamps, bell, furnace, and also to fence the lot. The agreement was faithfully carried out, and the house in due time solemnly dedicated to God. The lot cost $400; $1400 further were expended by the church; Bro. Allen expended $2300, making the total cost $4100.
The dedication was a season of great joy to the church. Rev. John Dowling, then pastor of the Pine Street Church, Providence, preached the sermon; Rev. Edward K. Fuller, pastor, Rev. J. Brayton and others participated in the services. Thirty-five years had now elapsed since their first santuary, the Tin Top, was dedicated, and now a second temple had been raised and set apart to the same service. As the church reviewed her history she had abundant reason to thank God and take courage.
John Allen, to whom the church was indebted so much from the time of its organization, was one of the constituent members of the church, and for 'nearly thirty years' its clerk. Reference has been made to him in connection with the account of the village of Centreville. He died July 26, 1845. His painted portrait is in possession of Mrs. Alexander Allen, of Centreville. He gave the church also the parsonage house and lot, and bequeathed on the death of his widow, the lot of land on the north of it. The following is an extract from his last will devising this land:
'I give and devise to the First Baptist Society in Warwick, the lot of land north of the Parsonage after my wife's decease, the same to be held and possessed by said society, their successors forever, for the use of the pastor of the Warwick and Coventry Baptist Church, in addition to his salary, reserving a passage way to my burial lot.'
Mr. Allen in his will devised the lot of land now called Point Pleasant Cemetery, opposite the Baptist Parsonage, and his farm of about eighty acres in West Greenwich, to the American Tract Society; six shares in the Warwick Manufacturing Co., and thirty-five shares in the Providence and Pawcatuck Turnpike Co., with several acres of land south of the Baptist parsonage, to the Missionary Union; ten shares in the City Bank, Providence, for the support of a missionary in China; two shares in the Warwick Manufacturing Co., fifty-three shares in the Centreville Bank, and sixteen shares in the Bank of Kent, Coventry, for Home Missions; to the R. I. Baptist State Convention, thirty-four shares in the Bank of Kent, Coventry, and thirty-seven pews in the 'Tin Top' meeting house, and twenty-five shares in the Centreville Bank, to the American and Foreign Bible Society - all these bequests to be paid after the death of his wife.
The seventh pastor was Rev. Edward K. Fuller, who united with the church August, 1843; closed his labors April 15, 1846.
Mr. Fuller was licensed to preach by the Second Baptist Church, Providence, June, 1836. Ordained by the 'Independent' Baptist Church, Pawtucket (now High street) April 4, 1838, where he remained three years. Was two years General Agent of the R. I. Sunday School Union. After leaving here he was pastor at Somerset, Medford, Reading, in Massachusetts, South Providence, New York City, New London and Jamaica, L. I. Now laboring as an Evangelist. Residence, Providence, R. I.
The eighth pastor was Rev. George A. Willard, who united with the church May 1, 1847; closed his labors July 1st, 1850. Mr. Willard was born in Lancaster, Mass., in 1810; ordained August 29, 1843, at Cummington, Mass., where he preached until 1847. He was pastor at Old Warwick from 1850 to 1859; He opened there a Family Boarding School for Boys, which he kept until 1867, preaching as he had opportunity at Natick and other places; was for some time Town Superintendent of Public Schools. He is at present a pastor at Ashfield, Mass.
The ninth pastor was Rev. Jonathan Brayton, who commenced preaching to the church Aug. 25, 1850; closed his labors January 1st, 1854.
The tenth pastor was Rev. L. W. Wheeler, who preached about a year. Mr. Wheeler has recently settled as pastor of the Bapist Church in Jefferson, N. H., having removed from Lyme Centre, of the same state. A letter forwarded to him failed of a response. The church after Mr. Wheeler left was destitute of a pastor for a year or more, when Mr. Brayton was recalled and commenced laboring April 1, 1857, and continued until ill health compelled him to relinquish his charge in January, 1859. He however continued to preach occasionally being assisted during the remainder of the year by Mr. C. C. Burrows, a student of Brown University.
Rev. Jonathan Brayton was born at Cranston, June 12, 1811. Baptized at Knightsville, when about sixteen years old, by Elder Pardon Tillinghast. At eighteen years of age he went to Providence to learn the carpenter's trade, where with a few others, he united in the organization of a Six Principle Baptist church, now known as the Roger Williams Church. Assisted in building a meeting-house for the church (which was subsequently burnt.) While at work on the inside of the steeple, he accidentally fell a distance of sixty feet, striking on the staging on the way down, breaking his leg and otherwise injuring him, and was taken up insensible. This concluded his carpentering work and changed entirely his course of life. His thoughts were now turned to study and a preparation for the ministry. Taught school three years in Fall River, preaching during a part of the time at Tiverton, and then went to Hamilton University and took the Theological Course, preaching to the neighboring churches during the time. Here he was ordained by the Faculty. Came east and began preaching in Phenix, in 1841-2, his labors resulting in the formation of the Baptist church in that village. During the winter and spring 119 were baptized; for about two years of his stay at Phenix he preached monthly at Natick, and often at Fiskeville. For several years on account of illness did not preach. In 1851, preached at Quidnick and assisted in organizing a church, preaching half the day at Crompton for upwards of three years. At the conclusion of his labors at Quidnick, went to High Street Church, Pawtucket, and labored a year and a half, when he returned to Crompton Church.
In 1858-9 the meeting house was thoroughly repaired, the galleries cut down, new pulpit put in, &c.
The present pastor, Oliver Payson Fuller, was called by the church December, 1859; commenced labor January, 1860; united with the church March 4th, by letter from the church in Canton, Massachusetts, by which he was licensed; ordained March 7, and continues to preach, qualis ab incepto.
Mrs. Audrey S. Briggs, widow of the late James Briggs, died July 27, 1873. In her will, she bequeathed the sum of $50 to the church. Both she and her husband united with the church January 7, 1857, and were devoted members until their death.
In 1866, further changes and improvements were made in the meeting house; the ante-rooms were partitioned off, the orchestra window put in, and a new Mason & Hamlin organ, costing $425 was given by Gen. James Waterhouse. In 1873, the house was again repaired, the interior handsomely frescoed, &c., the whole costing about $1,200.
Christopher C. Burrows, a member of the church was ordained to the work of the ministry July 13, 1863, while a member of Brown University, but did not enter upon a pastorate until 1869, when he settled at Davisville, in this State.
Mr. Burrows was born at Busty, Chautauque County, N. Y., April 23, 1825. While at Davisville, he baptized 112 persons. He resigned his charge at Davisville, in 1873, to take charge of the Broadway Baptist Church, Providence. He is settled at the present time in Lynn, Mass.
The following persons have been licensed by the church: Samuel Greene, November 20, 1818; Charles Weaver, March 24, 1828; Henry Clark, Feb. 25, 1832; Thomas Tew, April 11, 1837; William Lawless, December 29, 1845.
Samuel Greene never settled as a pastor. He died a few years ago at an advanced age, in Coventry.
Charles Weaver was born in Coventry, April 11, 1803; baptized in Washington Village, February, 1823. Married Diana Northup, June, 1823; commenced preaching at Anthony Village, February 10, 1828; organized a Sabbath School at the 'Tin Top', June 1st, 1828; ordained at Fiskeville, April 16, 1829; left Fiskeville, and was pastor successively at Plainfield, three years, Voluntown, six years, Suffield, four years, Norwich, four years, Noank, eleven years and Voluntown, the second time, from 1871 to the present time. In an interesting letter dated April 13, 1875, Mr. Weaver says he has baptized 1000 converts, and has 'been preaching forty-seven years, and have never seen a single Sabbath that I was not able to preach.'
Henry Clark was born in Canterbury, Ct., November 12, 1810. He commenced teaching in Centreville in 1829, boarding in the family of John Allen. In the summer of 1830 he was baptized by Elder Ross, and united with this church. His first attempt to preach was in the 'Store Chamber' on the day that he was licensed to preach. In 1834, he married Mary Dorrance of Anthony Village, who is still living though their children seven in number, have all died. He studied at the Hamilton Literary and Theological Institution. He was ordained a pastor of the church at Seekonk, Mass., in June, 1834, and remained three years; was pastor successively in Taunton, for two and a half years from 1837; Canton, Mass., in 1840 to 1842; Randolph, 1842 to 1846, when his health failing, he relinquished the pastorate until 1870, when he became pastor at Kenosha, Wisconsin. In 1872, he settled over the church at Pewaukee, same State, remaining two years, when he returned to his former charge in the city of Kenosha, where he still remains. During his ministry he was baptized about 300 persons.
Thomas Tew, licensed as above, preached for a while in different places, and became the agent of the Rhode Island Temperance Organization. A letter of inquiry respecting him, addressed to his son, failed of a reply.
William Lawless, though a member of the church never lived here. His residence being in Bristol, where he died a few years ago. He was never ordained but continued to exercise his gifts in public as he had opportunity.
The following persons have served the church as deacons: Alexander Shaw, Palmer Tanner, Caleb Ladd, Ephraim Martin, Warren Rice, James Tilley, Edwin Miller, Thomas Tilley, N. T. Allen, Jesse Brown, Ira Stillman, Pardon Spencer, Alfred Dawley, Asa Crandall. The last three are the present worthy deacons.
N. T. Allen was dismissed by letter to unite with the Phenix church soon after its organization, and from which he received a license to preach. He was ordained at Waterford, Conn., August, 1846; was pastor successively, at Groton, six years, Natick, two years, Jewett City, twelve years. He then returned to Groton where he has been settled the past six years.
The following persons have served the church as clerks: Barnabas Greene, John Allen, Whipple A. Arnold, William Brown, Robert Bennett, Pardon Spencer, and Charles T. Carpenter.
The records fail to give the names of those who have served as treasurers. Among those of the past twenty years, are Dea. Pardon Spencer, John J. Wood, Deacon Alfred Dawley, Peleg Brown, Amos Johnson, James E. Whitford, and Gideon B. Whitford.
Nearly seventy years have elapsed since the organization of the church. The fathers and mothers have all departed, but the great truths of the gospel which taught them how to live and how to die, remain the same for the instruction of their successors. The word of the Lord endures forever. In looking over the records I find that there has been at least twenty years in the history of this church when at least fifteen persons per year have been added to its number; six years in which not less than forty per year were added; three years when not less than eighty per year were added, and one year when ninety-three were added. The whole number added during the whole time has been about eight hundred and forty-five, one hundred and one of whom have united during the present pastorate, upwards of seventy of them being by baptism. The present number is one hundred and ten.
The following is a brief account of the Sabbath School connected with the Warwick and Coventry Baptist Church:
The earliest item that I have been able to find of an authentic character respecting the Sabbath School connected with this church, is that furnished by Miss Abby Sweet, a lady now in her 77th year, who says she attended a Sabbath School in the old weave shop, when she was about thirteen years of age, or in the year 1811. The school she says was conducted by James Smith, a man from Connecticut. In the winter of 1816-17, Major Jonathan Tiffany, who was then the agent or manager of the mills in Crompton, then called the Stone Factory, represented to Mr. Obadiah Brown, of Providence, the religious needs of the place. Mr. Brown gave a dozen bibles, and two dozen testaments for the use of a Sabbath School which was then in progress. Deacon Shaw was superintendent of the school. It was held in the old weave shop and subsequently in the 'Hall' house. For several years after Deacon Shaw left, there was no school, and only at irregular intervals until the summer of 1827, when James Greene became the superintendent, and continued the school through the summer and perhaps, the following summer. It does not appear that the school continued through the winter seasons until it found quarters in the 'Store Chamber', in the year 1830, when there were facilities for warming the room comfortably. On the evening of May 25th, 1830, a meeting was held, which adopted the following preamble and constitution:
'WHEREAS, we the subscribers being desirous of improving the morals of the children and youth in our village, and of affording them the means of such instruction as is consistent with the sacredness of the Christian Sabbath; and believing that Sabbath Schools are eminently calculated to effect these objects, we unite in a society and agree to adopt the following
ARTICLE 1. This society shall be called the Crompton Mills Female Sabbath School Society in Warwick, auxillary to the Rhode Island Sunday School Union.
ARTICLE 2. Any person may become a member of this society by signing the constitution and paying 12 1/2 cents per quarter.
ARTICLE 3. There shall be a President, Secretary and Treasurer and board of Directors.'
The remaining articles prescribe the duties of the officers, and the appointment of a Superintendent and teachers, who were to have the immediate oversight of the school.
The quarterly payments were exacted of those who became members of the society. The Sabbath School was free to all. In some places, in the early history of the Sabbath School work, the teachers were paid as in the week day schools, but it does not appear that any were thus paid in connection with this school.
To this constitution were appended the names of seventy-five persons, of whom were Crawford Titus, John J. Wood, James Tilley, Silas Clapp, John Spencer, Jr., George A. Bailey, Pardon Spencer, Jonathan L. Pierce, Jeremiah Randall and Jonathan Steadman, were the first ten. On the evening of May 26, Crawford Titus, acting as moderator, Pardon Spencer was chosen president, for the ensuing year; John J. Wood, treasurer; Leonard Loveland, superintendent; Washington Wilkinson and James Tilley, a Board of Directors. On June 5th, 1830, a series of rules for the government of the school were adopted.*
*As these rules are somewhat antique in character we give them in full.
'Rule 1. The duty of the Superintendent shall be to see that each scholar is in the right class; also to see that there is a teacher to each class; to take the name of each scholar and enter it on his book; also to record the names of the best scholars which the teachers may report to him; and also to see that a chapter is read from the scriptures at the opening of the school, and that it is closed with prayer.
2. It shall be the duty of the teachers of the Testament classes to hear the recitations, and attend to reading in the Testament twice; in spelling twice, and spell out of the book once. The remaining time until the close of the school shall be improved in reading, spelling, conversation, or any instruction the teacher shall find necessary for the improvement of the scholars.
3. Classes reading in the Spelling Book shall read and spell the same number of times as the Testament classes; remaining time to be improved in the same manner.
4. Any scholar behaving in an unbecoming manner, the teacher shall report him to the Superintendent and he shall put him in the bad scholars' class.
5. If by disobedience they continue in the bad scholars' class four Sabbaths, the Superintendent shall report them to their parents.
6. If such scholar or scholars attend the school the next Sabbath after being reported to their parents and behave themselves properly for the day, they shall be received into their former class; if not, at the school until they will become obedient to its rules.
7. The teachers of those classes which have the priviledge of taking books from the library, shall report to the Superintendent those scholars who merit books.
8. Those scholars that attend the school more than nine Sabbaths in a quarter shall be rewarded according to the number of Sabbaths they attend.
9. It shall be the duty of each teacher every Sabbath to endeavor to impress upon the minds of the scholars the importance of obedience to their parents and teachers, of constant and early attendance at school, and good behavior in and out of school, of getting their lessons well and keeping the Sabbath day holy; of not indulging in profane language and lying, nor in any of the vices which youth are exposed to; using such arguments to enforce their instruction as are suited to the capacity of their scholars.
10. It shall be the duty of the Superintendent to read, or cause to be read, these rules at the opening of the school every second Sabbath.'
At a special meeting held August 16, 1830, Crawford Titus, John Spencer, Jonathan Smith, Philip Brayton, Mrs. Titus, Mrs. Remington, Mrs. Whitman, Mrs. Cook, Mrs. Clapp, Mrs. Smith, Miss Lydia Smith, Mrs. Higgins, Mrs. Wood, Mrs. Pearce, were appointed a committee to examine the school. Crawford Titus was appointed Librarian. Elder Ross was requested, by vote, to deliver an address to the school the following Sabbath. April 9, 1831, Pardon Spencer was re-elected President, Leonard Loveland and Sanford Durfee superintendents; Crawford Titus librarian. At this meeting the admission fee was reduced to twenty-five cents per year, and at the annual meeting the following year the teachers were admitted free. Mr. Durfee continued in the office of superintendent until the year 1848, and was followed by Mr. Jesse Brown for a year or two, when Dea. Pardon Spencer was elected, and continued in office until the spring of 1871, since which time Rev. J. Brayton has filled the office. The other officers at present are Charles M. Seckell, assistant superintendent; Charles T. Carpenter, secretary; Job Spencer, treasurer, and John Northup, librarian.
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Transcribed 2001 by Beth Hurd